Annie Lane: Father/son rift is hurting everybody

Published 6:25 am Wednesday, July 15, 2020

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Dear Annie: I am beside myself. I am tired and frustrated. I married my husband over 17 years ago. He is 11 years older than me. When we married, he had a teenage son. Shortly after we married, his son, in his senior year, decided to go live with his mother on the other side of the world. He would keep in touch with his dad by phone and visit once a year.

When my husband and I retired, we decided to move closer to his son, but we were still a long drive away. We gave up everything to move there. My husband is in his 80s. He is not in good health. He can no longer travel the distance to see his son.

His son has a nice family with a couple of children and a good job. When we first moved here, they would come to visit on occasion. But now, it is far fewer visits. I have asked his son on several occasions to just call his dad, maybe once a week. But for some reason, he couldn’t do that.

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We send them gifts on all of their birthdays and special occasions. We never hear from them if they received the gifts or if they liked them — and there’s never a thank-you note. Only after I would email them, asking if they received the items, did they respond. My husband has called his son several times and left messages. He never calls back.

I’ve watched my husband as he has cried several times over this situation. It pains my heart to see how this wears on my husband. When he was raising his son, his son was the world to him. Now, he feels his son hates him. Not a day goes by that he does not go into a tirade about his son’s neglect.

He says he doesn’t want anything to do with them. When he dies, he doesn’t even want me to notify him. He made me promise to take his son out of our will when he dies. We have argued about this on several different occasions. I don’t think he really means this. His son is his only living relative. I used to make excuses for his son, but I’m tired. I can’t do it anymore. Help.

— At My Wits’ End

Dear At My Wits’ End: I am so sorry that you and your husband, and your stepson, are all going through this. Your stepson clearly has some animosity toward your husband that needs to be addressed. Instead of addressing it head-on, and talking through the issues, he is avoiding his father to prevent having a relationship.

It’s no wonder that he is doing that because your husband’s response to his son’s withdrawal was the same reaction. He said to cut him out of the will and to not even tell his son when he dies. Like father, like son.

The only way to stop this cycle is for the two of them to have an open and honest conversation about their feelings. Although it can be painful to talk about hurtful things, once you do, it feels much better in the long run, and you can begin to understand the other person’s point of view.

Encourage your husband to reach out to his son, one on one, and tell him how much not seeing his son has hurt him. Hopefully, they can work things out. To work through his resentment and hurt, your husband could always try therapy. It is easier to face emotions with a trained professional.

“Ask Me Anything: A Year of Advice From Dear Annie” is out now! Annie Lane’s debut book — featuring favorite columns on love, friendship, family and etiquette — is available as a paperback and e-book. Visit for more information. Send your questions for Annie Lane to